January 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Vincent Goodwill

Pistons coach is right: Winning trumps Richard Hamilton's feelings

Richard Hamiltonís benching has been a contentious issue with the Pistons, but the teamís performance has improved in his absence. (Clarence Tabb Jr / The Detroit News)

Auburn Hills — The words loyalty, royalty and respect have been thrown around to describe the situation involving the Pistons and Richard Hamilton.

Tayshaun Prince, Tracy McGrady and Chauncey Billups all empathize with Hamilton, saying he's being mistreated.

"He's one of the greats, and his jersey is going up into those rafters, so he doesn't deserve to be disrespected like this," Billups said. "I don't think that guys like Rip, Tay and Ben should be treated like that, especially for this team where they did so much."

McGrady pointed out that Michael Jordan was pushed out by the Bulls, the team he led to six championships.

"Look at the words he had for that organization," McGrady said of Jordan's vitriolic-filled Hall of Fame speech in 2009, some of which was directed at Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, who broke the team up after 1998. "It's because he felt like they weren't loyal."

But what it all comes down to is this:Management has to look out for the team, not one individual.

Hamilton only sees what he wants to see — histalent.

Sure, he's a great midrange shooter and an improved passer, but Hamilton doesn't see his career-low numbers (13.2 points, 39.4 percent shooting), and he doesn't listen to people who've said he's lost a step.

Pistons coach John Kuester has put his foot down.

And though he still speaks highly of Hamilton, Kuester is trying to do what's best for his team.

Not even Hamilton can dispute that the Pistons have been better recently.

Team first

Hamilton should look no further than the Pistons front office for guidance — and an example on how to cope with change.

Pistons president Joe Dumars dealt with change toward the end of his playing days.

Dumars ceded attention, playing time and shots to the likes of Allan Houston, Jerry Stackhouse and Grant Hill. And it wasn't for lack of talent or respect.

It was for the team.

"Everyone's gonna have different opinions on loyalty," McGrady said. "Who says (which side) is right or wrong? As a player you'd want that respect from the people up top."

But respect works both ways.

It doesn't mean Billups is wrong or Kuester's handling of Hamilton is right.

Billups believes Hamilton can still play — effectively.

"What Rip does is run off screens and make shots," Billups said. "You don't lose that unless you can't run anymore. I think people can see he can still run but you've got to be able to use him right. You got to respect Rip."

The issue isn't about respect.

It's about what definition of respect you're using.

Pistons at Heat

Tip-off: 7:30 tonight, American Airlines Arena, Miami

TV/radio: FSD/WXYT

Outlook: The Heat beat the Pistons, 97-72, on Dec. 1. … Dwyane Wade (migraines) did not play last Saturday but returned Thursday against the Knicks. He's expected to play tonight. … Heat C Chris Bosh (sprained ankle) missed Thursday's game at the Knicks.

vgoodwill@detnews.com

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